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Premier League

Liverpool fans say sad farewell to ‘one of us’ Klopp

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Premier League - Aston Villa v Liverpool - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 13, 2024 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp acknowledges the fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers/File Photo REUTERS

Liverpool fans were bidding farewell to their charismatic manager Juergen Klopp on Sunday with songs, murals and other tributes to an eight-year reign that brought the glory days back to one of England’s greatest clubs.

The bespectacled 56-year-old German was to manage his beloved Reds for the 491st and final time at 4 p.m. (1500 GMT) against Wolverhampton Wanderers in front of a sellout crowd at Anfield.

With the Premier League game itself largely irrelevant now Liverpool cannot win the title, all focus was on Klopp, who had fought back tears as fans serenaded him at his final away game.

“We’ll never see his like again … He’s one of us,” waxed John Pearman, founder of Liverpool fan magazine “Red All Over The Land” which brought out a special Klopp edition.

After leading the team to seven trophies, including Europe’s Champions League in 2019 and a first English league title in three decades in 2020, Klopp is leaving of his own volition to recharge his batteries.

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KLOPP’S CITY

He has not said what he will do next, beyond ruling out managing another club in England, out of respect for the working class port city he came to love as his own.

“I could have grown up here,” he said in a club video.

“We gave Liverpool the best time of our life, and the other way round as well. I will never walk alone ever again in my life,” he added, alluding to the song by 1960s Liverpool band Gerry and the Pacemakers that became the club anthem.

It was not only success that endeared Klopp to fans.

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They loved his passion and personality: fist-pumps at the end of games, bear hugs for players, time for charitable causes, indignant protests at dubious decisions, and insistence on a high-energy aggressive “gegenpress” style of football.

After decades of mediocrity, when arch-rivals Manchester United were the top dogs in England, Klopp restored Liverpool’s pride, his irrepressible zeal eclipsing other Premier League managers.

“Watching Klopp and so many of the incredible players he developed made me fall in love with football, making the fact he’s leaving hurt even more,” said 15-year-old fan Freddie Williams before the Wolves game.

“He’s given the fans what they’d been longing for the past 30 years, putting Liverpool back on top. The moments he’s created, the laughter he’s given us along with his immense success has made him irreplaceable at LFC.”

In pubs and back streets, supporters recalled their favourite Klopp moments: the four-goal comeback against Barcelona in a 2019 Champions League semi-final, a 7-0 drubbing of Manchester United in 2023, or his manic leaping charge across the pitch after a last-ditch winner against derby rivals Everton in 2018.

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Ever the gentleman, Klopp later apologised for disrespecting Everton.

‘I’M IN LOVE’

The fans’ song for Klopp is a delirious version of the Liverpool-born Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”.

“I’m so glad that Juergen is a Red, I’m so glad he delivered what he said!” they chant.

“Juergen said to me ‘you know, we’ll win the Premier League you know’, he said so! I’m in love with him and I feel fine!”

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Players, too, were emotional about the man who revived careers and made giants of the likes of Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, while nurturing a plethora of new talent.

“He’s like a fatherly figure for everyone,” said 21-year-old midfielder Harvey Elliott. “An amazing person to be around. I’ve learned so much off him, I can’t be thankful enough.”

The German’s stay in Liverpool has also spawned a slew of new wall art. One of the latest murals shows a heroic-looking Klopp in black-and-white holding his hand to his chest against a backdrop of Liverpool’s red-and-white colours.

Above it are the words: “We believed”.

Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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